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World s Most Extravagant Handbags It s never too early to start thinking about your holiday wish list. Sure to top it this year? Chanel s "Diamond Forever" tote (pictured left). In December, the company will debut 13 of these diamond and alligator handbags just in time for the holiday shopping crunch. Each is a stepped up version of the classic Chanel shoulder bag, with the iconic Chanel "Cs" encrusted in a staggering 334 diamonds (a mongolian ugg boots total of 3.56 carats) set in 18 carat white gold. The alligator skin is farmed and treated with a matte finish. While few may actually end up owning this bag, the demand for other high end handbags has skyrocketed. "[And] handbags definitely fall into that category." Scarcity is also driving desire for these totes. "A handbag [such as] the Chanel Diamond Forever bag is more of a collector s item than something you use on a daily basis," she says. "Like an exquisite car or a rare painting, it s the limited availability and high demand that make this handbag more valuable." Though Chanel s treasure may be the costliest handbag on the market, there are others that are just as costly, some dripping with diamonds, others crafted from animal skin. A Purse Is Worth A Thousand Words Take the Birkin by Hermes, a brand synonymous with luxury. This bag, inspired by French actress Jane Birkin, can fetch between $6,000 and $15,000, depending on what grade of leather or exotic skin it is made of. But it is as nothing compared to its more exotic sister, the Crocodile Birkin. Price: $120,000. What makes this bag so expensive is not just the leather used but also the 10 carats of diamonds set in white gold and placed on its clasp. There are only two such bags available for purchase in the worldAccessorizing handbags with precious stones is not uncommon. The Leiber "Precious Rose bag incorporates 1,016 diamonds, 1,169 pink sapphires and 800 pink tourmalines, all set in 18 carat white gold. Cost: $92,000. The Lana Marks Cleopatra Clutch in alligator ($100,000) comes accessorized with 1,500 fully cut and faceted black and white round diamonds that line the top of the handbag. Only five such clutches are made each year. In Hollywood during awards season the designer makes a limited edition Cleopatra for only one actress. Two have won Academy Awards while in possession: Charlize Theron in 2004 and this year Helen Mirren, who carried hers right up to the podium. Rare Skins When it comes to alligator, ostrich or snakeskin, handbag designers go to extreme lengths to find the rarest. Santiago Gonzalez, chief executive of Nancy Gonzalez handbags, has traveled from the Australian Outback to Hong cheap ugg outlet store Kong to find skins that seldom come to market. "What people don t understand," he says, "is that it takes a certain amount of area on the skin to make a bag. If the lizard is too small, then you have to use more of it." Quality also determines price. The Nancy Gonzalez Porousus Bag, made with rare lizard skin, costs $30,000. Designer ugg outlet massachusetts Devi Kroell uses alligator skins whose scales are similar in size a rare phenomenon to create a bag priced at $29,000. Judith Leiber s canary yellow handbag in alligator ($17,000) likewise uses skin with similar sized scales. What with animal rights activists up in arms over fashionistas in fur, might we not soon see the day when lizard lovers will be pressured to not buy bags that once swam or slithered? "As much you would think there would be a huge backlash, there won t be," says Danziger. "It goes back to the basic rule of supply and demand. The more rare and scarce something is, the more people want it. In the case of overly expensive handbags, people will still covet them because it s an uncommon find."

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World s most powerful ugg boots on sale luxury brands Even in the depths of a dark recession, luxury isn t such a bad place to be. While not entirely immune, the industry s biggest names, including Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel continue to succeed. This is according to the annual Millward Brown BrandZ ranking of the Top 100 Most Powerful Brands, a list that covers 50,000 brands worldwide, released April 29. In the luxury category, Louis Vuitton came out on top, with a brand value of $19.4 billion, followed by Hermes at $7.86 billion, Gucci at $7.47 billion, Chanel at $5.53 billion. Behind the Numbers To rank the brands, market research company Millward Brown used the BrandZ database of its parent company, WPP, which owns several marketing, advertising and public relations firms, among others. Some brands on the list are clients of WPP s companies, but the database is the world s largest repository of brand equity data, according to WPP, and includes interviews with more than 1 million consumers globally. Consumers were asked about their loyalty to each brand and also about their attitudes toward the future of the brand (for example, whether or not its stock will increase in value or its sales will increase). The BrandZ ranking also considers the dollar values of the company. In 2009, Google topped the complete list with a brand value of $100 billion. While the top three brands held their 2008 positions, high fashion Chanel crept up one spot, while fine jeweler dropped from fourth place to seventh with a 2009 value of $4.91 billion. Cartier s somewhat dramatic fall has a lot to do with the fact that, while luxury handbags and shoes still seem to be selling, ultra expensive investment items such as $1 million, diamond encrusted Cartier watches aren t faring so well. "Brands that offer luxury treats glasses, belts, handbags, etc. are less vulnerable," says Nikhil Gharekhan, senior vice president at Millward Brown. Although the dollar value of most of these brands has decreased Louis Vuitton s, for instance, dropped by $6.34 billion from $25.74 billion in 2008 their standing on the overall list remains solid because luxury brands have weathered the financial storm better than their mid market counterparts. It has a lot to do with branding positioning. In other words, right now, consumers want to shop, but not as much even if they can afford to do so. That means that they re buying one luxury handbag for $1,500 rather than five less expensive handbags at $300 each. Leather retailer Coach, for example, is suffering as a result. The tall ugg boots cheap mid market retailer, positioned between Liz Claiborneand Kate Spade on the price spectrum, did not wield the brand power to make the list. In its most recent quarter, the company s year over year sales decreased by 6.7% to $740 million. "[The executives behind] Louis Vuitton and Hermes absolutely control every single component of their business model, from retail distribution to discounting," he says. Indeed, even when Saks Fifth Avenuewent on a markdown rampage last kids ugg boots sale fall, offering 70per cent reductions on several high end brands, including shoemaker Manolo Blahnik and Prada, items at the Louis Vuitton shop within the luxury department store remained at full price. The only place shoppers can find discounted Herm s is in outlet stores, which carry stock from seasons past. Current season goods are not marked down no exceptions. The policy is reflected in both companies sales results. At luxury conglomerate Mo t Hennessy Louis Vuitton, year over year sales in the fashion and leather goods sector of which Louis Vuitton is a part increased by 11per cent to 1.6 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in the first quarter of 2009. LVMH said that both Louis Vuitton s new Damier Graphite and Stephen Sprouse collections sold particularly well. And while reports of LVMH selling off its wine and spirits brands to British drink maker Diageofor 12 billion euros ($15.5 billion) may have been vehemently denied, even the whispers prove the company is willing to shed extra weight. Not So Precious While luxury fashion and accessory brands seem to be irrepressible right now, jewelry has taken a major hit. Cartier is still the most valued jewelry brand in the world, though its luster dulled a bit in 2009. Not only did its status slip in this particular ranking, but the brand s parent company, Richemont, said year over year jewelry sales decreased by 12per cent to 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2008. Other high end jewelers have suffered worse, though: Fortunoff, Doris Panos Designs and Fred Leighton have all filed for bankruptcy protection in recent months. One brand that fell out of the top 10 in 2009 is Giorgio Armani, which ranked eighth last year, with a value of $5.12 billion. Today, that value has dropped by $2.02 billion to $3.1 billion. While Armani the man is still a billionaire with a net worth valued at $2.8 billion, Pedrazza says the company s multiple brand extensions, including Armani Casa, Armani Hotels and AX Armani Exchange, have stretched it a bit too thin.

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